Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Yesterday morning I finished off week four of Mountains 2 Beach Marathon training with my first 20 mile run (the plan calls for four 20 mile runs — am I insane to follow such a rigorous plan? Feel free to discuss that in the comments). Anyway, it was an EPIC run. I’d say all 20 mile runs are epic runs, but this was epic with a capital EPIC because I ran all the way from Anaheim in North Orange County to the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

I chose the Santa Ana River Trail because its gentle downhill grade to the ocean mirrors the Mountains 2 Beach course grade from Ojai to the ocean at Ventura.

It's all downhill from here!

It’s all downhill from here! The Santa Ana River Trail looking west from Yorba Regional Park.

Over the course of 20 miles from Yorba Regional Park to the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Ana River Trail loses 280 feet in elevation. It doesn’t feel downhill though, and with several road underpasses and bridges over the river, it manages to squeeze in 72 feet of elevation.

The first several miles of the run I felt great yet intimidated by the sheer length of the workout before me. At mile 2 I couldn’t keep myself from doing the math: “You’re a tenth of the way done.” Mile 4: “You’re a fifth of the way done.” What had I gotten myself into?!

The weather cooperated with temps starting in the low 60s and rising to the high 70s three hours later. I carried one 20-ounce water bottle in my hand and another 24-ounce bottle in my fuel belt. There are several drinking fountains along the way but not nearly enough to rely on alone. With the dry SoCal air, I ended up needing approximately one gallon of Fluid sports drink and water!

Passing mile 10 and the halfway point gave me a boost in spirits but my energy started to wane a bit. I still hit my desired 9:35 pace but my effort to get there increased. I planned to take a green apple PowerGel with caffeine at mile 13. Before that though, I got just the injection of energy I needed. A cyclist riding up the trail saw me toughing it out and called out, “Keep it goin’ girl!” I called back a grateful “Thanks” and rode the wave of his kindness for the next mile. It amazes me how a few simple words of encouragement from a stranger can make all the difference! I have to laugh though and wonder what it is that makes strangers know I need that encouragement. Remember the man who lifted my spirits when I bonked on my first ever 20 mile run? Yesterday I did not bonk on the run, thank goodness, but somehow people still knew I needed the boost. Had the cyclist passed me on his way down the trail an hour ago and recognized me on the way back? Did he see my Garmin and know I was in for a long haul? Did I have a grimace on my face or the hunched back I cannot seem to avoid when I get tired, no matter how hard I pay attention to form? Was I flinging sweat left and right? Or did I give that cyclist a jealous look that said, “I want to hop on your bike like it’s Brad Pitt!” Whatever it was, he recognized a need in me and I am so thankful he made the effort to say some kind words.

At about mile 16 the breeze picked up as I approached the ocean and it became harder to hit the 9:35 pace. I used my struggle to practice what it would be like at the marathon. I pulled out all my mantras, this time throwing in what the stranger had said: “Keep it goin’ girl!” I thought about what it would be like to hit that 20 mile mark, having met my pace goal for the day. By mile 18 I was having to dig deep and fight it out. And then it happened again! A female cyclist passed me from behind and called back, “You are hauling! Go girl!” I nearly burst into tears! Instead, I managed to say, “Thank you! I needed to hear that!” More words of encouragement that helped me pick up the pace and knock out 20 miles at an average of 9:34, with the last mile at 9:06.

When I hit 20 miles I threw my arms up in the air and yelled like I just didn’t care: “Twenty miles!” There was no finish line photo, no arch of balloons over the line, but I celebrated anyway. And when another kind couple saw me walking rather stiffly on my cooldown walk and asked if I was alright, I assured them: “Yes! I did 20 miles!”

I’d done the 20 miles in 3:11, and I walked for another 40 minutes. In retrospect I should have had Mike pick me up after I’d walked for about 10 minutes. That last 1.6 mile walk to the beach might have been the hardest part of the workout! I desperately needed more water, and I texted my husband to make sure he and the rest of my support crew (three cute little girls in beachwear!) would be waiting at the parking lot at the end of the trail. I’ve never been so thrilled to see the ocean and to see my family waiting there for me! We walked (well, I hobbled) down to the shore and I kept on walking, right into the ocean for an “ice bath.” I could barely stand the cold on my feet but it felt glorious on my calves and thighs.

Today I feel surprisingly good. My neck and shoulders are sore, which tells me I’ve got to work more on correcting that hunchback form! My knees are a little sore, which tells me it’s a good thing I am training on the downhills to prepare for Mountains 2 Beach. Mentally, I am relieved to have met my pace goal for my first 20 miler of this training series. Spiritually, my faith in humankind has been boosted by the good-hearted strangers who made it possible.

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The Brea 8K is tomorrow. It’s not my “A” race (that is the M2B Marathon in May) but I look at it as an important gauge of how my training is going. I want to beat my time from last year’s 8K race, and I want to hit a pace that shows that my desired marathon pace is achievable (not that a 4.97-mile race is the best predictor of a 26.2-mile time, but still).

The problem is that I’ve got all these pre-race jitters. Can I really run a good race on Sunday when I squeezed my marathon training 17-mile long run in on Thursday morning? Can I run fast when I’m training for long? Will I get to the race on time? Will I dress right for the weather? Will I injure myself and set back my marathon training?

I know that jitters are normal and everyone has them. Even Kelly Ripa had them before the Empire State Building Run-Up earlier this month. Faced with running up 86 flights of stairs, she joked:

I am horrified. I am just doing a countdown until I have to run to the top of the Empire State Building. And nothing has gone the way I envisioned it. I thought for sure by now they would have canceled this [indoor] event due to weather….

Co-host Michael Strahan asked her, “What are you most nervous about?”

Well, failure, death, vertigo, humiliation, pain, suffering, soiling myself, not finishing, hurting something. You know, I just have those basic fears that everybody else has.

Of course none of those things happened and she had a great race, coming in at 18:16 for 6th place of 31 in the media heat, second female in that division. Congrats, Kelly! And thank you for reminding me that everyone gets these irrational fears before a race.

So, what are some techniques to combat these pre-race jitters?

10 Tips for Dealing with Race Jitters

1. Trust your training. Now is not the time to think that you should have thrown in some more speedwork or hill training. Don’t do anything unusual in the days before a race. That’s just asking for trouble.

2. Study the course map. Generally a course map is available online. To ease my race fears I take it one step further and drive the race course if possible. For a triathlon, I often bike part of the run and/or bike course as my bike tune-up the day before a race.

3. Visualize the race. The night before a race, close your eyes and visualize yourself at the start. See yourself racing strong from start to finish. You’ve got to believe it to achieve it!

4. Focus your nervous energy on setting out your race gear and double-checking the race start time and the driving directions to get to the race. Going over every detail before the race will help address any fears about getting to the race on time, with all your necessary gear in hand. This is especially important for a triathlon — go through everything you’ll need for the swim, bike and run portions, and set aside what will stay in transition and what you will keep on you for the start of the race.

5. Set multiple wake-up alarms. One of the things that keeps me awake (or keeps me from falling back asleep the night before a race) is worrying that I will miss my wake-up time. Set an alarm clock, cell phone alarm, friend or partner’s cell phone alarm, hotel wake-up call — any combination thereof.

6. On race day, stick to the plan. Eat what you normally eat before a race or long run. Warm up the same way. Do not look around you at what others are doing and think you should change up what works for you.

7. Do not let the nervousness of others get to you! For as nervous as I am in the days leading up to a race, I actually feel pretty good on race day itself. If I’ve done all I can do to prepare and I make it to the race on time, I am ready and raring to go. I put a smile on my face and block out the anxious faces around me.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

Remember the pure joy of running! These girls are loving the Delphi Walk-a-thon. Photo by familylife.

8. Use the nerves you have to your advantage. Race jitters send nervous racers running for the porta potties. That’s a good thing. Use your race nerves to clean out your system before the race. Warm drinks (like coffee) help with that too.

9. Remind yourself that no one cares about your finish time but you. If you don’t have your best race, no one is going to say, “I can’t believe you didn’t PR!” or “Really, you were that slow?!” You would never say that to a friend, and a friend would never say that to you. Even if your worst fears come true (for me, injury or a big fat DNF: Did Not Finish), you will learn something from the race.

10. Remember that race jitters mean that you care. You wouldn’t be nervous if this wasn’t something important to you. You’ve probably invested a lot of preparation and time into this race. Half the success of the race is showing up trained and ready to go! Pat yourself on the back for committing to the race, to the training, and to showing up at the start line in spite of your fears!

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Happy Love Day everyone! To celebrate I’ve come up with 10 things I love about running.

Photo credit: sierrafit

Photo credit: sierrafit

1. I love that it’s me against me. As someone who started running at age 39, I’m never going to win a race but I can always challenge myself and improve.

2. I am constantly learning something new about myself and the sport.

3. I love the fact that I start out a run feeling one way (good, bad or ugly) and no matter what I end up happier and more satisfied with my day.

4. Running reminds me that my body is powerful and strong. After experiencing infertility and Graves’ Disease (an overactive thyroid), I felt betrayed by my body. Running restores some of my lost confidence. (Conversely, any running injury chips away at that confidence, but let’s not dwell on that!)

5. I’ll be honest — I love the weight loss. I was never overweight but running brought me right down to the middle of the weight range for a normal Body Mass Index for my height.

6. I love coming home to a quiet house and checking off a long run before my family has even woken up for the day.

7. I love how running is all about me. It’s the one “selfish” thing I do, and yet I don’t even consider it selfish because making physical activity a priority sets a good example for my children.

8. It’s a very tangible way of measuring accomplishments: (1) check off a training workout, (2) achieve a split on a speed workout, (3) complete a new personal distance record, or (4) earn a PR at a race. That type of accomplishment does not even compare to the everyday things like: (1) do some of the never-ending loads of laundry, or (2) remind children who do not chew with their mouths closed no matter how many times I nag them about it.

9. I love love love when I enter a workout into MapMyRun.com, and when I enter the amount of time I ran it says I burned 453 calories, and then when I enter the distance I ran in that time, it says I actually burned 566 calories. That little bump up in calories makes me so proud of how far I’m come in my running over the last two years. I’m a little bit speedy! Sometimes I run a little bit faster than the MapMyRun average based on time!

10. I love that running is a healthy activity I can share with my husband, my kids, and friends. Runners are my people. Our common passion for the sport bonds us no matter how different we are in the rest of our lives.

What do you love about running?

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For today’s Second Annual Virtual Run for Sherry, runners from across the United States and various other countries run together in spirit to remember Sherry Arnold, the 43-year-old mother of two who was abducted and killed while on an early morning run in 2012.

Before I headed out the door on my run, my 10-year-old snapped this photo of me:

Ready with my virtual race bib on.

Ready with my virtual race bib on.

After yesterday’s thunderstorms and HAIL, today the weather smiled on my run with sunny skies and about 50 degrees in Southern California. Everything came together and I had the best run I’ve had since the Santa Barbara International Marathon last November. This is the end of week 1 of my training for the Mountains to Beach Marathon, and my Run Less, Run Faster training schedule called for 13 miles at 9:05 pace. About three miles into my run, another runner caught up with me and paused to chat. He paid me what I consider the ultimate compliment by asking, “Are you training for a marathon?” LOVE IT when another runner recognizes me as a peer! This guy had run the Long Beach Marathon in 3:19 and was training to go for a 3:15 BQ at Los Angeles in March. He looked in great shape for it and I told him so before he picked up his pace again. We met again around mile 10 of my run and talked training plans. What a joy to encounter a fellow runner and encourage each other along the way!

Sherry, these miles are for you.

Sherry, these miles are for you.

I finished the run in just under 2 hours, hitting an average pace of exactly 9:05 as planned! On my cool-down walk I called ahead to my husband and put in an order for hot chocolate (to be consumed in my recovery ice bath) and his signature egg sandwich (whole wheat bread, two fried eggs, avocado slices and melted Italian cheeses). I feel fantastic and I can’t help but get a little emotional when I think that participating in the Virtual Run for Sherry for my 13.1 miles had something to do with that. All I could think on my run today was: “I am so lucky to be here doing this.” I don’t take any moment for granted.

Did you run today? If you’re going out later, will you print and wear a bib for Sherry?

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For many years, my New Year’s resolution was to exercise at least four days a week (now it’s six). I kept track on a paper calendar (you remember paper calendars from the BG and BBB days — Before Google and Before BlackBerry?) I’d cross off each day that I exercised for at least 20 minutes, although the goal was 30 or more. If I only exercised three days one week, that was okay, because I could shoot for five the next. There was no throwing up of hands, oh well, I didn’t make it four days this week, I couldn’t keep my New Year’s resolution again this year. I was kind to myself (and as a certified perfectionist, I’m not often kind to myself. Like right now I’m berating myself: why do you use so many parentheticals in your writing? (That is not a good thing)).

Anyway, if you are struggling to keep up with your New Year’s resolutions, or have already thrown in the towel, I want you to be kind to yourself and rededicate yourself to your resolutions. Do you want to know my trick for doing that? It’s super easy and effective.

Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend.

Would you say to a good friend, “I can’t believe you didn’t exercise today!” or “You’re only down two pounds instead of four. You might as well give up because you’re never going to meet your goal.” Of course not! But for some reason, we are harder on ourselves than we are on our friends. Why?? We deserve to be treated with the same kindness.

For example, if you were training for a race and you missed a week of training for whatever reason, you might beat yourself up mentally over it. You might even be worried you could not meet the race distance and should give up on the race. If a friend missed a week of training, you would not say a single negative thing. You would give her a supportive pep talk. “I know it’s hard when you get off track for a week, but you can do it! Don’t give up now! I am proud of you!” You’d help her figure out how to adjust her workouts to resume her training plan.

Don’t give in to your own stinkin’ thinkin’ (that’s a Crazy Sexy Cancermovie reference) (and there’s another parenthetical, but I choose to forgive myself for that). Treat yourself with kindness. Treat yourself as you would treat others.

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I have no beef with New Year’s resolutions, but I find I get a lot more traction out of “before the end of the year” resolutions. For the past two years I have resolved to declutter my house before the end of the year. Yes, the very fact that I’ve made that same resolution two years in a row reveals that I was not exactly successful in accomplishing my goal. However, I cut myself a lot of slack on that. When we moved from Michigan to California, we went from a home with a 1,700 square foot basement to a home without any basement at all. (What’s up with that, homebuilders? You think basements are only for cold country? Basements are for JUNK STORAGE, obvs). So, here we are without even a crawl space. Zip, zero, zilch space to put all that “stuff” that for some reason we thought it was important to hang on to for 13+ years.

I have made a lot of progress over the last few years since we moved into our home and there are only five spaces remaining to declutter:

1. The linen cabinets in the upstairs hallway. We have way too many hand-me-down, mismatched sets of bed linens. Time to purge those and get organized so I can tell what goes with the master king bed, the queen beds, and the full bed.

2. The extra cabinet in my 8-year-old’s room. It’s filled with photo albums and scrapbooks and miscellaneous papers that need sorting. There’s no reason for all that stuff to be in my daughter’s room.

3. The laundry room cabinets. Those are the cabinet versions of “junk drawers.”

4. The garage. We have made tons of progress on the garage. The proof is in the fact that we can now park two cars in our three car garage instead of only one. It’s sad how happy that makes me.

5. The master bedroom closet. That closet has been clean in the past, down to the shirts being organized by sleeve-length and color. Right now I would settle for “no crayons dumped on the floor by the toddler.”

Am I going to get to all that in the three days remaining before the New Year? Heck no! I’ll be satisfied to do one of those. (The linen cabinets are calling my name: “Purge me, Angela. Use your extra energy in the off-season to make me pretty. Go crazy and make labels! You know you want to.”)

The thing about resolutions is they’re not absolutes. They’re goals to work toward. They’re not all or nothing. The key word is progress. If you can say you’ve made progress each year, moving forward toward your goals, I’d call that a huge success.

When I peeked back into the archives of my journal for 2012, I found this entry on January 4th:

I don’t have resolutions or goals. The two words that sum up my hopes for 2012 are “progress” and “prompt.” Make progress bit by bit on keeping the house clean, staying fit, making friends (for me and the girls), going down the “to do” list. Prompt means not procrastinating on big tasks or small. Laundry, dishes, paying bills, doing things on the “to do” list that are bothering me.

I confess that by the end of the year I’d forgotten about the words of intent I’d chosen for the year — “progress” and “prompt” — but I can say that I lived by them for the year. I made progress keeping the house clean. There are still many times when it looks like a tornado hit the downstairs (“tornado” being “three girls I am desperately trying to teach to clean up after themselves”) but with my decluttering efforts we are never far away from being tidy.

I definitely made progress on “staying fit.” In 2012 I ran my first 8K, half marathon and full marathon. That’s epic progress!

Making friends for me and the girls? In addition to my high school friends who remain close, and the lovely book club ladies, I made a new friend in my half marathon coach Stephanie. I’m a die-hard introvert, so for me to have someone I can reach out to for companionship on a long run is wonderful!

I made lots of effort for the girls to have playdates here at the house and local parks. We do not live in a traditional neighborhood with sidewalks, culs-de-sac (yes, that is one of the grammatically correct ways to say the plural of cul-de-sac, which is French for “bottom of the bag” or “bottom of the sack”) and a school within walking distance. We have to go the extra mile (literally) to get the girls together with friends.

As for the last goal of paring down the “to do” list? Progress on that front too. Sure there are big things remaining (“power wash the deck and stain it” is not likely to happen anytime soon) but when it comes to things that I can realistically accomplish in the next day, I am pretty darn good about knocking items off the list faster than I can add them. I couldn’t say that when I had young babies, but with my youngest turning age four last July, I’m gaining traction. It feels good.

What about you? Do you have any resolutions, goals, or words of intention for 2013? How did you do in 2012?

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As I mentioned yesterday, the nagging injuries in my left shin and right groin had put me in a bit of a funk. Show me a runner who deals with injury well and I’ll call her a liar. I aspire to handle injury with grace, but as my husband can attest, that remains a mere aspiration. In fact, half the reason I started this blog was to have someone else (a community of someone elses, in addition to my patient husband) to talk to about running and injuries. Along with running my mouth off (ha ha), I’ve put in place a Happiness Plan. I told myself, “Quick, think about the things that make you happy. Make a list! Put it into action!”

1. Exercise six days a week. Five workouts of running, swimming or cycling, and at least two of weight training. One full day of rest and one day with only strength training. [Note that I have stuck with this plan for the last week, running 20 miles, biking for 50 minutes, and doing several strength training workouts].

2. Get outside for half an hour daily or more. This is a must for me. I am a terrible homebody and my natural tendency is to stay inside, preferably curled up in bed with a good book. At the same time, I recognize that I am happiest when I am out of doors, and if I make the effort to get outside, I’m richly rewarded.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

3. Keep a “to do” list. Each day do the one thing that’s bugging me most (often the very thing I least want to do). Then knock out as many of the others as possible.

4. Keep up with the laundry (that includes putting the clean clothes away!) With five people in the family, including three little girls who love to play dress-up and a few athletes who often go through two sets of clothes and a sweaty towel a day, that adds up to a lot of laundry. If I do two loads a day, I can keep on top of it. A clean house = peaceful mind.

5. Focus on nutrition. Two fruits and seven vegetables per day. Ten 8-ounce glasses of water or other liquids (and that does not include alcohol!) That might sound like a lot of water (and I do know it’s possible to over-hydrate) but I can tell you that it is so dry here in Southern California that I often get headaches if I do not drink enough water. Add on turning on the furnace in winter and it is super dry here even with the rain we’ve been getting lately.

And if you think eating your veggies is a strange part of a Happiness Plan, check out this article from three days ago that confirms that eating more veggies and fruit can make you happier.

The more vegetables you eat, the happier and more satisfied with life you are. In fact, in one survey, eating seven to eight portions of vegetables was more strongly associated with happiness and overall well-being than employment status. On the whole, the paper concluded that well-being peaks at seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but the surveys also showed that people who ate just five servings a day (the amount that the USDA recommends) were as happy–or very nearly so–as people who ate higher amounts.

Love it, but I don’t need a study to tell me that I feel better when I eat better. (Note that the study cannot confirm whether happy people eat their veggies or eating veggies makes people happy. I’m not sure it makes a difference to me — I want to be a happy vegetable eater either way!)

On the whole, my Happiness Plan seems pretty basic and straightforward. I would argue though that it takes living with intention to stay on track with the Happiness Plan, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Do you have a Happiness Plan? What are the must-do items on your list? In addition to the five things on my list above, I’d add the one thing I take for granted: spending time with family. The happiest times of day for me are the times I spend snuggling my youngest in the morning before school, or reading to the girls at night.

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When it comes to willpower, I think many people believe you either have it or you don’t. You either have the ability to stick to a diet, workout plan, or resolution, or you don’t. If you miss a run in your training plan, you obviously didn’t have the willpower to make it happen, right? Wrong. In my mind, having willpower does not mean that you check off every workout on your plan without fail. It doesn’t mean that you always meet your goal of working out X number of days a week. Willpower means that when you’ve missed a workout or had a day of bad nutrition, you have the ability to forgive yourself and start over again. You have the power to rededicate yourself to your goals.

Any number of things can get in the way of your sticking to a plan. Many of them have nothing to do with what people usually think of as “willpower.” The top two things that come to mind when I think about missed workouts both have to do with illness: yours or someone else’s. You might have had every intention of hopping on the treadmill, but instead you spent the day coughing up a lung. Maybe you sat on the couch all day long, but it was only because you’d made your sick toddler a couch bed of towels on which to toss his cookies.

It might even be something less dire that keeps you from getting that workout in. Unexpected bad weather. Workout gear forgotten at home. Maybe even — gasp — a dreaded case of “I just don’t feel like it today.” Suddenly you’ve missed a workout, and now there’s something stopping you from getting back to it and getting that next workout in. Is it a lack a willpower? You didn’t feel like it yesterday, and you don’t have the willpower to force yourself to workout today? No, it’s not a lack of willpower, it’s an abundance of guilt. You feel guilty that you didn’t get that workout in for whatever reason, and now you’re blaming a “lack of willpower.” You have the power. You have the ability to kick your guilt to the curb as you hit the street for a run. Don’t waste your energy beating yourself up over a missed opportunity! Put all your energy into your next workout.

Willpower is simply the ability to see the big picture and to know that one slip-up (or two or three) should not be an excuse to keep you from doing what in your heart you know is best for yourself.

What do you think? Do you have willpower? What happens to you when you hit a bump in your training or eating plan?

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At the beginning of the school year in junior high, the physical education teacher told my class to run a mile as fast as each person could. I, being both an obedient and a competitive little thing, ran my hardest. I wasn’t very fast — I was fit from the swim team but did not do any running — but I ran all out. For some reason, many of the kids walked the mile. I couldn’t understand it. Why didn’t they listen to the teacher? Why weren’t they even trying?

After we finished the mile, the teacher dropped a bombshell, and I knew exactly why those kids had “run” like tortoises. She told us we would be tested on the mile throughout the school year, and if we didn’t improve our time each week, we would fail. Those kids that had walked? They had older siblings who had clued them into the deal. If they walked the first week, they could jog the next, and run slowly the week after that, and so on and so on, steadily “improving” each week. Those of us who had run all out were now stuck with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Completely worn out from the effort of running a mile, I saw no hope of improving. I felt tricked, and the whole thing completely de-motivated me. I wasn’t a runner, I didn’t have the natural talent, and I wasn’t going to be able to do it. What a horrible mindset! I ended up getting out of PE by putting my hours in at the pool. I didn’t run after that for many years. I opted instead to keep fit by swimming, mountain biking, rollerblading, walking and hiking, but never running.

I did one Race for the Cure 5K in 2006 when I was 35, and while I achieved my goal of coming in under 30 minutes, it nearly killed me. I still didn’t feel like a runner (whatever that means). Running felt difficult to me, and it seemed I wasn’t naturally suited to it.

Something clicked inside me when I was 39 and staring down 40. I wanted to be “fit at 40.” A friend (hi Geli! Thank you friend!) challenged me to run 30 miles in 30 days. That seemed totally doable, and I did it! Around the same time, I picked back up with swimming and started training for my first sprint triathlon. At some point during that six months of training, I turned the figurative corner with running. I enjoyed it! I enjoyed it enough to advance to an Olympic distance tri (with its 10K run), then a half marathon, and finally the full marathon.

Along the way, my mindset changed. At first, after the junior high mile fiasco, I had a “fixed mindset.” I believed people were either born runners or they weren’t. Either you had the natural talent or you didn’t. No amount of training would turn a “non-runner” into a “runner.” During the triathlon training, I started to see improvement. I put in effort and got out results. No one expected me to be an expert, a super-talented triathlete from the get-go. I relaxed and enjoyed the process and the progress. Without knowing it, I developed a “growth mindset.” Let me explain. For my lovely ladies’ book club (both the ladies and the book club are lovely), we are reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck.

As the subtitle explains, the book is about how we can learn to fulfill our potential. The author claims that we all have unknown and unknowable potential for growth. For example, some people think a person’s intelligence is fixed — that your IQ is innate and no amount of nurturing and developing your mind will change your intelligence level. The author talks about how we all start with a genetic endowment but experience, training and personal effort take us the rest of the way. Two quotes on page 7 struck a chord with me and I think they apply equally well to intelligence and athletic ability.

This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way–in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments–everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

I love that way of looking at it. If a particular run is hard for me, or if I suffer an injury or other setback, or I don’t have my best race, I have two choices. I can tell myself that I’m a failure (the girl with the fixed mindset who didn’t think she was a runner) or I can learn from the experience and continue to improve (the new woman with the growth mindset who believes she’s a runner).

Does this resonate with you? Does running come easily to you? Did it always? How do you feel when you have a setback or do not get a PR in a race?

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If you live in Southern California and are looking for something fun to do on Saturday November 3, 2012, go check out my husband’s band The Strings, playing at Big’s in Fullerton to help raise funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (The American Cancer Society).

Band flyer

Those are quite the top hats!

If you can’t make it or you just want a preview of how awesome The Strings sound, have a listen to this cover version of the song “She” by Green Day. As a bonus, the guys were dressed in Halloween costumes. The vampire on the bass is my hubby. At one point during the song, the LA County sheriffs arrive, but that doesn’t stop the boys! The police officers came out two more times during that night, but never shut them down. I think they secretly appreciated the music!

Go on out to Big’s to hear some great music and support a wonderful cause! My “top hats” and I will be at home, taking care of the kids, but I’ll be at Big’s in spirit!

Have you raised funds for any charity in the last year? Do you join any race teams for a good cause? I haven’t done any fundraising in the last year (beyond paying race fees for charity races), although I have made it a point this year to support any of my friends who have walked or run in support of a charity. I’ve got some generous, motivated friends who have raised funds for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the American Cancer Society, Bike MS (multiple sclerosis), A Light of Hope Support Center, and Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis.

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